Coming to know God

Cathal Barry explores the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Humanity's search for the ultimate meaning of life begins with a realisation of oneís capacity for God and continues with coming to know Him.

Created in God's image and called to know and love Him, the person who seeks God discovers certain ways of coming to know Him. These are also called proofs for the existence of God, not in the sense of proofs in the natural sciences, but rather in the sense of converging and convincing arguments, which allow us to attain certainty about the truth.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, these ways of approaching God from creation have a twofold point of departure: the physical world, and the human person.

Order and beauty

Regarding the world, the Catechism notes starting from movement, becoming, contingency, and the worldís order and beauty, one can come to ìa knowledge of God as the origin and the end of the universeî.

As St Paul says of the Gentiles: "For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made." (Romans 1:19-20)

And St Augustine issues this challenge: "Question the beauty of the earth, question the beauty of the sea, question the beauty of the air distending and diffusing itself, question the beauty of the sky… question all these realities. All respond: 'See, we are beautiful.' Their beauty is a profession. These beauties are subject to change. Who made them if not the Beautiful One who is not subject to change?"


In terms of the human person, the Catechism notes the soul can have its origin only in God. It states: "The human person: with his openness to truth and beauty, his sense of moral goodness, his freedom and the voice of his conscience, with his longings for the infinite and for happiness, man questions himself about Godís existence.î In all this he ìdiscerns signs of his spiritual soul," it says.

According to the Catechism, both the world and man "attest that they contain within themselves neither their first principle nor their final end, but rather that they participate in Being itself, which alone is without origin or end". Therefore, in different ways, man can come to know that there exists a reality which is the first cause and final end of all things, a reality "that everyone calls God", as St Thomas Aquinas puts it.

Finally, the Catechism notes man's faculties "make him capable of coming to a knowledge of the existence of a personal God". However, for man to be able to enter into real intimacy with Him, "God willed both to reveal Himself to man, and to give him the grace of being able to welcome this revelation in faith".

In this case, the proofs of God's existence can predispose one to faith and help one to see that faith is not opposed to reason.